Retinal: the anti-ageing ingredient the industry’s going nuts about
There’s a new beauty buzzword almost every week so, for the sake of usefulness and integrity, we aim not to jump on bandwagons or rave about faddy trends (at least until we’ve checked they’re legit).
That said, an ingredient has come onto our radar that’s got us interested. Retinal. Not retinol, -AL. It’s the latest in a longline of must-include ingredients and it’s got some pretty impressive skincare credentials.
Like the better known retinol, retinal (a.k.a retinaldhyde) is a retinoid, a group of vitamin A derivatives which have been used since the 60s to help create a smoother-looking complexion.
And that’s where it gets a little more science-heavy, so we caught up with Dr Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist at The Harley Medical Group, to give us the lowdown on the stuff we’re not really qualified to talk about.
What is retinal?
‘Retinoids are a class of synthetic and naturally occurring Vitamin A compounds and derivatives, that include retinol and retinoic acid, which are naturally occurring in humans. Some retinoids, such as retinoic acid (tretinoin), are available with a prescription only. Other retinoids, such as retinols and retinals (retinaldehyde), are cosmetic,’ said Hextall. ‘Retinal (retinaldehyde) is a precursor of retinol and the natural form of vitamin A.’
How does it work?
‘Retinal will give the retinoid benefit of increased cell turnover and rejuvenation with significantly less side effects. Retinol and retinal have to be converted to the active form of vitamin A retinoic acid to be active in skin. But retinol has to be converted to retinal first before conversion to retinoic acid, which is seen as an advantage.’
The appeal of retinaldehydes is that, basically, they help the skin look more youthful. But we wanted to know why, how and whether there were any scary side effects that were less appealing that looking one’s age.
‘There are many advantages to retinals, including increased skin elasticity and cell turnover, a thicker dermis, reduced pigmentation, increased hyaluronic acid and anti-oxidant benefits protecting against free radical damage,’ said Hexhall. In fact, research has shown it could be better more effective than retinol at treating effects of photoageing, the effects of prolonged UVA and UVB exposure on the skin.
Not just for anti-ageing, some studies have suggested retinoids are also better at treating acne than retinols. ‘The aldehyde component seems to make retinals a more effective antimicrobial’, said Hexhall. ‘Importantly, because retinaldehydes have less side effects, they are likely to be tolerated for longer. Although some see retinals as less potent, they are easily tolerated and, as such, their prolonged use will reap its benefits.’
Though the effects sound appealing, Hexhall suggests avoiding using retinol on dry sensitive skin. Instead, using other active topicals, such as anti-oxidants to protect skin and brighten skin.